2013 Interview: Reverend Noah Smith

Written By Kandis Knight
Rev. Noah Smith

"You'll always have teenagers and young people who need to be introduced to this spiritual dimension of life. I just want to have an opportunity to talk to them personally, not only preach to them, about their concepts and ideas about God."  -Rev. Noah Smith

Born in 1908 in Marion, Indiana, Rev. Noah Smith was raised in the AME church. Late in Smith’s life, in 1954, while Smith was teaching Sunday school at St. Peter's AME Church in Minneapolis, his pastor asked him to consider the ministry.

"I said, 'What do you mean go into ministry? I'm 49 years old. God would have called me when I was young.' And he said, 'He did, but you didn't hear him.'"

With the pastor’s blessing, Smith pursued the ministry and he didn’t care that it was late in his life, he was proud to follow in the footsteps of his father.  Smith’s father was also a well-respected leader in his hometown church.

Smith is also an artist of many talents.  He plays percussion, and he is also a talented cartoon artist and painter.  In 1930, Smith moved North to Minneapolis where he began a business painting signs on buildings and vehicles. In 1941, Smith landed a job as a waiter in a dining car for the Burlington Northern railroad, where he worked for nearly three decades.

In 1960, Smith was ordained and began serving at St. Peter's through 1986. A highlight of Smith’s career was working with Gary Reierson, president of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.  Reierson was one of Smith's teachers at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton. After working with Smith, Rierson described Smith as a "bridge builder, especially around racial issues."

A true trail blazer, Smith participated in a partnership in early 1990 that paired white and black churches together so they could better understand each other.

At the age of 78, Smith graduated from Macalester College earning his master of divinity degree at the seminary shortly after.

Smith also led an AME congregation in Duluth and served as pastor at St. James AME Church in Minneapolis. In 1998, Smith went on to Wayman AME Church, a community of about 500 members. 

Today, Smith has been preaching for over 50 years and is considered one of the oldest preachers in the United States. At 102, Rev. Smith still gives regular sermons at Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

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